Death Cult

I’m listening to the news today. Today is the first day I’ve awoken clear-headed in a week or more. I’ve binge-watched Star Trek on Netflix for the last two days, I’ve been feeling so poorly, and before that I was just going through podcast archives because I didn’t want to listen to the news. I’ve been avoiding the news since the El Paso shootings. I’ve been avoiding the news because I don’t want to hear about thoughts and prayers and I don’t want to hear arguments about what kinds of solutions that we could enact that would fix the plague of mass shootings in the US today. I don’t need to hear what we need to do, I know what needs to be done. I wrote about it two years ago. We won’t do it, and prayers don’t help, so why pay attention?

…and we don’t even notice all the mass killings that occur in this country anyway, because there are so many of them. Everyone is crying and moaning about El Paso and Dayton, but the death toll in Chicago over that same weekend was higher than both those incidents. Almost no one outside of Chicago noticed.

Today I wake up and I feel well enough to risk listening to the news. So I queue up the NPR news feed and throw in ABC (CBS?) and then I go on to the Texas Standard. That’s when I get derailed from my news consumption. They’re still talking about El Paso on the Texas Standard. Well, El Paso is in Texas, I should have expected that. Governor Abbott has held a nearly unprecedented impromptu news conference. Great. He doesn’t think he needs to call a special session of the legislature to deal with the issue of mass killings right here in Texas.

Seriously? The guy who thought we needed a special session over which bathroom you use doesn’t think we need a special session over gun regulations and mass shootings? The governor who is afraid of homosexuals and transsexuals doesn’t think that being shot while in Walmart shopping for schools supplies is a problem that we need the legislature to address? I mean, I guess he gets an attaboy for finally admitting that his president is a racist… No, wait. He said the shooter was a racist, not the president that the shooter quoted was a racist. Nevermind. No attaboy for Greg Abbott. I thought he might actually get one thing right while he was governor, but I guess not.

None of this tirade would have made the blog if I hadn’t been pinged by Steve Kubby during my cardiologist mandated sweat marathon, something I’ve neglected for several days because vertigo makes exercise into an invitation to take a trip to the emergency room for a cause other than a heart attack. Falling off the treadmill can be about as traumatic as a heart attack, in the scheme of things.

The phone pings while I’m on the treadmill, and because I know I’ve turned off push notifications except for the apps that the family uses, I figure it’s someone I know needing something. So I (carefully) check the phone and notice it’s a messenger notification from Steve Kubby. Now, that’s weird. Steve Kubby blocked me on Facebook seven years ago. What the hell does he have to say to me today?

Who is Steve Kubby? Well, back at the dawn of the internet age, back in the bad old days of the full force insane war on drugs, Steve Kubby was a cancer patient that was jailed for possessing Marijuana. He was jailed for using a known appetite enhancer and pain suppressor to treat the side effects of his cancer treatment. I wrote about him way back then. I friended him on Facebook when I joined Facebook, as I did a lot of my libertarian friends of the time.

But time passed, and libertarians got even less connected to reality than they were before they could tailor their newsfeeds to only tell them things they agreed with, and the rest of the world got progressively weirder and less connected right along with them. I found I had less and less in common with libertarians as I became disabled and had to rely on the stingily released government services that I had faithfully paid for through all of my adult life. Became less connected as I relied on services that my libertarian friends and conservative family members condemned me for relying on (decrease the surplus population!) in the first place, just another bullet point in a long list of things that I no longer had in common with these people.

Then the world changed in some pretty shocking ways. Every bit as shocking as 9-11 was in its time, from my perspective. The terrorist attacks on our country were things that libertarians had seen coming. The US was breeding terrorists with every foreign intervention. This belief was part of the libertarian ideology, a piece of it that just happened to be true. What wasn’t on the horizon, wasn’t even in the calculations, was armed uprisings targeting our own people. The Sandy Hook massacre opened my eyes to the dangers of the killing machines in our midst, and the other horrible mass shooting events that seemed to occur far more frequently than they ever had before. Seven years ago, when Sandy Hook happened, we could go a couple of weeks before another shocking incident occurred. Over the first August weekend of this year we had two on the same day, and those were just the ones the media were willing to talk about. Incessantly talk about.

One wonders that, if the images of those dead children and their teachers had been plastered all over the internet, would that have altered the trajectory of armaphiles in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting? Would they have been less inclined to pretend that the attack was a false flag operation? If the pictures of the aftermath of mass killings were things that you could find easily, would these people who are sexually aroused by holding a killing machine have decided not to take the course they took? Would their masculinity shrivel? We’ll never know now.

We’ll never know because that wasn’t what happened. With Alex Jones, the pied piper of conspiracy fantasies leading the way, the armaphiles subscribed in droves to the truly insane idea that anyone would pretend to kill or actually kill hundreds and thousands of people just to have a pretense of making them give up their fetish paraphernalia. This image is just one of dozens I’ve seen over the years asking the question “Why do they care now? It’s because they want our guns!” In the midst of the Sandy Hook denialism, denialism that has only recently been stymied by successful litigation, I got caught up in a few different conversations about firearms and the purpose of having them. Conspiracy Cults; Getting What’s Coming to Them? was one of them. ZAP Doesn’t Include Firearms and Killer Pets was another. Both of those occurred after the date stamp on the messenger message that Steve Kubby was replying to, so maybe not. The only thing that corresponds to that period in time was the image (above) of the pyre that the Branch Davidians made of their compound in Waco, and contrasting that tragedy with the slaughter at an elementary school.

As I said in the message Mr. Kubby responded to today, responded to seven years after he blocked me and I subsequently wrote it,

Good. Less crap on my daily feed. As if truthers will ever have as much credibility as the just as clueless JFK conspiracy theorists. As if libertarianism hasn’t already seen it’s zenith in political relevancy (it has, by the way) and is determined to find the bottom of the political barrel as quickly as possible.

…to be unfriended by someone who goes to Nazi imagery at word go when it comes to discussions of weapons in the US. I think that’s a compliment. Stick to subjects like drug legalization, Mr. Kubby. It’s something you can at least speak knowledgeably about. That’s why I friended you, not your crazy ideas about other subjects, that much is certain. You were asking for support back then. No good deed ever goes unpunished, indeed.

Facebook Messenger message, 12/24/12, 1:24 AM

Today he responds with the infamous, inscrutable Facebook thumbs up. I have no idea what that means, especially seven years later. He’s changed his mind? He agrees with me? He’s flipping me off? (what the hand sign means in several countries) He agrees that we both have better things to do? In looking through the blog trying to figure out if I’ve written about this before, in the intervening seven years, I realize I’ve never touched on the story of the Branch Davidians and their immolation in the presence of federal officers intent on arresting David Koresh in Waco, Texas. Well, that was a good bit more than seven years ago. That predates the time when I started writing the blog, even.

If I tried telling that story it would take us way back. Back to the days when Al Gore was inventing the internet. Back to the days when Bill Clinton was the president, a conservative Democrat that couldn’t convince the Republicans of his time that he really was their buddy and they should work with him. He even passed the proverbial law and order legislation in his attempts to meet them halfway. Legislation that has helped lead to the highest levels of criminal incarceration in human history. All to no avail. Conservatives and Republicans still hate him to this day, even though he is demonstrably one of them. But I digress.

It would also take us all back to the days before science became political. Al Gore didn’t only invent the internet back in the 1990’s. According to conservatives he also invented global warming. I remember those days clearly. The outrage over the immolation of children shown to us on our TV sets was fresh. The fear of government overreach so graphically on display in those images. Bill Clinton’s assault weapons ban that had every conservative convinced he was coming after their guns. The merest suggestion by scientists and science communicators that we might have to stop burning gasoline while sitting in line at a drive through window to get hamburgers. Every. Single. Day. The unfathomable belief that carbon dioxide could kill us. The belief that the ancient ice that covered the poles of our planet might melt and that the seas might rise. It all sounded… Apocalyptic.

Telling that story would take us back to the days when I believed a lot of that kind of conservative bullshit. Bullshit that was spread by word of mouth because there was no internet, no access to facts and research without hours, days and months of sweating through volumes of information in a library. It would take us back to the days when I first heard the ideas that would lead a shooter to travel ten hours across Texas in order to “shoot Mexicans” in El Paso.

Back then, these weren’t the kinds of things that believers talked openly about, except among friends that agreed with them. You certainly didn’t allow yourself to be caught subscribing to them after killing more than a dozen people. Killing more than a dozen people and not even being embarrassed about the bullshit that lead you to do it.

The truncated Branch Davidian narrative was just one of the stops along the route for these deadly ideals. Sovereign ideals. The route from white supremacist, christianist writings back in the seventies to Ruby Ridge and then on to the Waco siege. From there they traveled onward to the Murrah building in OKC and onward still to the Bundy ranch and the Malheur standoff fiasco that should have been put down and it’s perpetrators prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Tax cheats and fraudsters have roamed free spreading their ideas far and wide for decades now, their wrong-headed beliefs largely unchecked and most likely uncorrectable aside from warning the uninitiated away from subscribing to them.

The concept of a sovereign citizen originated in 1971 in the Posse Comitatus movement as a teaching of Christian Identity minister William P. Gale. The concept has influenced the tax protester movement, the Christian Patriot movement, and the redemption movement—the last of which claims that the U.S. government uses its citizens as collateral against foreign debt.

Gale identified the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as the act that converted sovereign citizens into federal citizens by their agreement to a contract to accept benefits from the federal government. Other commentators have identified other acts, including the Uniform Commercial Code, the Emergency Banking Act, the Zone Improvement Plan, and the alleged suppression of the Titles of Nobility Amendment.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For my part, I could never track down the facts behind what sovereign citizens believe, even though I spent several years off and on dedicated to the idea that there had to be some basis for the beliefs that my friends of the time clearly subscribed to. I wrote one article for the blog on the subject back in 2014 titled Ideally There Would Be No Idealists; the Sovereign Version a sort of tongue-in-cheek salute to my disillusionment with idealists in general and the whole notion of sovereignty in particular. As I said there,

The idea that anyone can be sovereign or should expect to be considered sovereign is laughable; this is entirely aside from having the ultimate authority on what you personally will do or not do, whether you will continue to exist or not. Sovereign is a completely different approach to the subject of authority.

Whether or not anyone other than a king can rightfully claim sovereignty as the term is defined is beside the point. The fact remains that all of these events, knowingly or not, were in some part inspired by the sovereign citizens movement and their ideas. They were inspired by these ideas because those ideas flow freely in the counterculture that is represented in the simple phrase bucking the system. That’s where you go when working within existing political structures represents surrender on your part. The counterculture. Being part of the counterculture, a scofflaw, puts you on the fringe, and the fringe is were ideas like those represented by the sovereign citizen movement reside.

…and those ideas have been widely adopted by disparate peoples, many of whom would be appalled to discover the white supremacist roots of the ideas behind sovereignty. There is no doubt that Gale and the group he was part of were white supremacists. These are established facts. What is in question is whether any of the hundreds if not thousands of flavors of the sovereign citizens movement still promote the white supremacist heart of the ideals, or if they simply subscribe to the popular notion that other people’s rules don’t apply to them.

Cliven Bundy is a racist. That much is certain. His sons and their co-conspirators subscribed to the sovereign citizens ideals, they voiced concepts related to them more times than I care to count. It is entirely possible that David Koresh had no idea where his beliefs came from. None of the things that I’ve heard about the man suggest that he was capable of introspection, of questioning his own motivations to do this or that thing. So he may never have questioned why the rules of others should not apply to him; he may simply have accepted the arguments presented to him by the manipulators and con artists that seem to run rife out on the fringe of political belief. When you are profiting from the sale of weapons at gun shows while at the same time selling off the assets of your religious sect to support your and their lifestyles, all the while having sex with all of the women housed on the sect’s property, you tend to not study your relationship to the truth too carefully.

However, the government didn’t kill those children in Waco, as tempting as it is to believe the imagery of that day as I remember it, as conservatives and sovereigns remember it. The followers of Koresh being caught up in a suicidal belief system predicated on the looming end of the world lead more to their demise than any action that the US government did undertake, or even could have undertaken, in the best of circumstances,

The tactical arm of federal law enforcement may conventionally think of the other side as a band of criminals or as a military force or, generically, as the aggressor. But the Branch Davidians were an unconventional group in an exalted, disturbed, and desperate state of mind. They were devoted to David Koresh as the Lamb of God. They were willing to die defending themselves in an apocalyptic ending and, in the alternative, to kill themselves and their children. However, these were neither psychiatrically depressed, suicidal people nor cold-blooded killers. They were ready to risk death as a test of their faith. The psychology of such behavior—together with its religious significance for the Branch Davidians—was mistakenly evaluated, if not simply ignored, by those responsible for the FBI strategy of “tightening the noose”. The overwhelming show of force was not working in the way the tacticians supposed. It did not provoke the Branch Davidians to surrender, but it may have provoked David Koresh to order the mass-suicide.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The ultimate cause of the demise of the Branch Davidians in Waco was not a problem of gun control, the point of drawing a parallel between Sandy Hook and Waco. Most of the Branch Davidians died from causes related to the burning of CS gas, namely cyanide poisoning. The ATF did overstep their authority in this instance, they should have listened to the local police enforcement and allowed them to arrest Koresh the next time he came into town. But the federal government’s missteps did not directly cause these peoples deaths. Their being part of a death cult caused their deaths. If you are hoping and praying for armageddon, you too are part of a death cult.

If anything, the gun show loophole that sovereigns and scofflaws rely on to get their weaponry lead directly to the massacre. It was the purchases of weapons for resale at gun shows that put the FBI on Koresh’s trail in the first place. Had there been proper regulations for weapons of mass destruction like semi-automatic weapons are, there would have been no lucrative arms business for David Koresh to engage in, and he would never have gotten on the FBI’s radar in the first place. At least, not until the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints showed up on government radar, and even then it would have been to quietly arrest the leaders and then liberate the people held in ignorance of their own rights.

The two events, the Sandy Hook massacre and the Waco siege, are not related. They are apples and oranges except for one tangential fact. The US as a whole has adopted a siege mentality in the years following Waco. Like the Branch Davidians did right before their self immolation, we see enemies all around us and we know the doom of our way of life is on the horizon. We are all caught up in a death cult. All of us, and most of us are in denial about this fact.

What cult, you ask? The cult of economic growth.

As I sit here finishing this article, the Amazonian rain forests are on fire. They were purposefully set on fire by people who hope to profit from farming and mining on that land. One of the last reserves of rare flora and fauna, as well as one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, is being destroyed in the name of profit. But it isn’t just the Amazon that’s on fire. The tundra in Canada, Russia and Alaska, tundra across the entire arctic circle, is melting and in places it too is on fire. We’ve had glaciers that have gone extinct in our lifetimes. Glaciers that supplied drinking water to thousands that essentially don’t exist anymore. The mythical Northwest Passage that explorers searched for in vain is no longer a myth. There is ship traffic now passing Canadian coastline that was covered in permafrost even during our lifetimes. The planet is warming and the evidence is all around us. The evidence is all around us, and still we make the problem worse.

We are poisoning the biosphere that keeps us all alive and pretending that the impending doom of our civilization is not something to worry about. Sea levels are rising, coastal cities are flooding in ways that we’ve never experienced before. All of this was predicted by the models that climate scientists have constructed, but conservatives and evangelicals refuse to believe. What they instead say is “god will provide” never understanding that what he will provide is death, just as he provided death to the Branch Davidians. He provided the death, the release from their burdens, that they prayed for. That is what omnipotence means. If it happens, he does it.

As nature itself turns against us, we live more in terror of being caught up in the next mass killing than we worry about the impending end of our civilization. The terror? That is by design. It is not the design of the government that wants your guns, but by the design of the white nationalist, sovereign, christianist, terrorists in our midst. The people who run the NRA. Young earthers. Evangelicals. The people who back Donald Trump, the Orange Hate-Monkey, his precious #MAGA, the Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans. All of them. They want their armageddon. They want to meet Jesus, and they want to do it while they still have truck-nuts on their diesel SUV’s and an AR-15 in each hand. They want this disaster to continue to unfold exactly as it has been spelled out. They’d rather be dead than be wrong about everything.

Death is coming for them. Death is coming for all of us even if we do change our ways. But if we change our ways our children might have a world to live in rather than to have to die with us. If we embrace renewable energy like any sane person should, we can get over this looming catastrophe and possibly avert the apocalypse.

This has to be stopped. Their campaign of terror has to end, and we the people, the citizenry of the United States have to stop it. We are the only ones who can. If they require us to disarm them in order to get started on the real work at hand, reversing climate change, removing ourselves from the death cult of unquestionable economic growth, then that is what we will have to do. I would prefer that they could be made to see reason, but I am increasingly pessimistic that they will admit to their error before most of the currently living are already dead, and we cannot afford to wait that long.

We cared about the dead children in Waco, but we were powerless to stop them from being killed. We cared about the dead children in Sandy Hook, and we were stopped from preventing the next hundred, the next thousand mass shootings from occurring by people too stupid to know they were part of a death cult. We care about the dying biosphere all around us, and we are similarly being thwarted by these same stupid people who want desperately for their god to prove them right.

Those people? They are insane. I don’t know how else to describe it. It is insane to kill yourself when there is no need. When no sacrifice is needed. When suffering amounts to having to walk rather than drive. Cook rather than eat out. Not have the firepower on hand to take down an army single handed, just because you want to have it. They are insane, and we should not be listening to them when it comes to determining our, and our children’s, future.

#ImpeachTrump? #ExpelMcConnell!

To: Representative Roger Williams
1708 Longworth HOB Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-9896
Contact: https://williams.house.gov/contact

To: Senator John Cornyn
517 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2934
Contact: www.cornyn.senate.gov/contact

To: Senator Ted Cruz
127A Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5922
Contact: www.cruz.senate.gov/?p=form&id=16

I’m writing you concerning your dereliction of duty, and what I see as your one chance to save yourselves from the coming storm that is rising against Donald Trump and the Republican party that he has remade in his image. Your one chance to save yourselves from the fate that awaits both him and his accomplices in the high crimes and misdemeanors that he will soon be accused of. His accomplice in the Senate, Mitch McConnell will also be charged, and the Senators are in a position to either be charged with him, or to finally do the right thing by the citizens of the state of Texas whom they claim to represent.

In 2010, Mitch McConnell informed Republican contributors that he intended to not do his job for the next two years in order to make Barack Obama a one term president. When President Obama was reelected in 2012, Mitch McConnell proceeded to not do his job, and to encourage his fellow Senators to not do their jobs, including both of you, for the next four years, for the entire time that Senator Cruz had been in office. As a result of his and your efforts to derail the US government under Barack Obama, the migrant crisis on the Southern border was never adequately addressed. Because of his and your negligence, the opioid epidemic was never addressed at all. Because of his and your negligence, the student debt crisis has continued to spiral into a catastrophe. Because of his and your negligence, thousands and millions of Americans, thousands of Texans, have suffered and died without adequate healthcare. Continue to suffer and die to this very day. Not satisfied to see them suffer and die at the current rates, your caucus in the Senate has attempted to throw more people off of the ACA at the behest of your corporate and wealthy funders. Because of his and your negligence, the impacts of climate change have never been acknowledged and no attempts to offset CO2 emissions have even been begun at the federal level.

I could continue this litany of negligence, disrespect and outright lies on his and your parts, but I would be here all day writing this if I was to attempt to enumerate every single issue that McConnell is derelict in dealing with. His encouragement to you to be derelict in your official duties to serve and protect the constitution of the United States, and through that document the people you represent. I don’t consider any of you to be worth that kind of time. All three of you are generally beneath my notice, past experience being a good educator. I have written to all of you in years past, taking you to task for things you said and did both before and after you entered office. I know you are wholly owned by your corporate donors and wealthy benefactors. I know that none of you care about the suffering of average Texans. I know that none of you care about anything but being re-elected and being able to continue to take sweet campaign contributions from dark money sources. Therein lies the heart of your problem. I will spell this dilemma out for you.

You will lose your next elections. All of you. It’s true, I won’t and never have voted for any of you. So there is no need to try to prove to me that you aren’t the things I describe above. I know that I will get no return correspondence that will address any of the points that I make in this letter. You will dismiss this letter, as you have all the other letters I have sent you, as being from someone who does not represent the majority of Texans. Your current problem is larger than me, larger than Austin where I live, a place on the map that won’t vote for you either.

Austin, a city you Republicans have sought to punish for our unwillingness to support your previous pro-corporate agendas, along with most of the metropolitan areas across the state of Texas. We will not swear allegiance to you and your corporate owners, we see ourselves as citizens of the city we live in, not the state of Texas that our cities are unable to escape the control of. Your governor and the Republican controlled Texas legislature have all shown how much disdain they hold city dwellers in by forcing us to abandon rules that we deemed necessary for city life. Forcing us to abide by the whims of your corporate masters. We do not forget your disregard for our desire to go our own way, make our own rules. But your problem only starts in the cities that will not vote for you.

The average Texan will not support your leadership’s current white supremacist agenda. The targeting of racial and religious minorities. The demands that the US establish a legal preference for the christian religion and its god. These are all contrary to the constitution of the United States and all of the founding documents that have come down to us modified through the ages. It is there in black and white for anyone to discover. The racism that lies at the center of the Confederacy that your schools lie to our children about. The Jim Crow laws that your white supremacist forebears forced the federal government to accept in violation of the spirit of the fourteenth amendment. All of it, there for anyone to stumble across if they simply have the curiosity to go look.

Your problem is that all of Texas can see that you serve Mitch McConnell and Republican corporate funders. You do not serve the state of Texas, the state you were sent to Washington DC to represent. This can be seen in your willingness to watch Texans suffer and die without healthcare, as I mentioned previously. No, you don’t serve Texas; you serve Mitch McConnell, a man who violated his oath of office most recently in 2015 by not at least holding a vote for or against Merrick Garland, an act that was required by law, by the very constitution you swore to uphold. Mitch McConnell who is personally profiting from his wife’s job in the cabinet, also in violation of the constitution. You serve this man, and this man is not worthy of being a member of the Senate.

Mitch McConnell serves Donald Trump. Not the office of the president, an office that has sat essentially vacant since Barack Obama left office three years ago. No, he serves the man Donald Trump, a man who has never obeyed the law, a man who lied when he took his oath of office and even now openly conspires with our enemies in an attempt to retain political power. He serves Donald Trump, a man who is doing his dead level best to start a war with Iran that isn’t necessary. Donald Trump, the man that is starving and killing climate refugees on our Southern border in an attempt to prove that we in the US are even more heartless than the MS-13 gang members that he scares his voting block with. Donald Trump, and through him Mitch McConnell, wants to be more cruel than the gang members that are killing these people in the places they escaped from.

Now, all of this might not be a problem for you if only you could control the press like dictators do in places that Donald Trump loves. Places like Russia and North Korea. But this isn’t one of those poor, information starved places. This is the United States, where anyone can get on the internet almost anywhere and find out what the truth is by simply looking for it. By reading a newspaper or going to a library or just turning on their TV sets. And they are finding out about the things that I describe above. They know of your negligence. They know of your dereliction of duty. They, the majority of Texans who can and will vote, will not be voting for you in 2020 or 2024 because they will have a choice other than you to vote for. You may not be worried about this. You may think you have a fix in that will make sure you appear to win your elections anyway. The people who know what I know? Those people will not be fooled by your chicanery.

You have one chance and one chance only now to save your hides and your good standing, if not your offices. Begin hearings today to have Mitch McConnell removed from the Senate. Join with the leadership of the House of Representatives in their attempts to find out just how much criminality that Donald Trump has conducted under the guise of being president of the United States. Call for impeachment hearings for Donald Trump, a man who was never worthy of the office of the President in the first place based on his own rhetoric and his own lawless business practices. Do these things and we will not be forced to convict you along with your leadership when we finally take power from you again. The choice is yours. The writing is on the wall for anyone to see now. Choose.

Sincerely,

R.A. Steele
Austin, Texas
July 4, 2019

Don’t Bomb Iran

You’re the president? What are you gonna do about Iran?

He misheard me. I said I’m present when he asked how was I? My usual conversational smartassery causes a miscommunication again. But the question was asked and so I proceeded to dwell on the question What would you do about Iran? for the next few hours. My immediate response was to say I’d apologize for saddling them with the Shah, but he didn’t hear me and it wasn’t important enough to belabor the answer to the question that he flippantly asked in response to my smartassed non-answer.

The story of the US’s relationship with the region is a long history of pain and grievance, so the question of what to do is equally long and painful to answer. The nation of Iran was made up out of whole cloth like the country of Iraq was, lines drawn on a map by the colonial powers in an agreement they made to mutually release the region from their direct control following World War one. Before the area we in the West call Iran was under colonial control, the civilization that occupied that space referred to itself as Persia.

Well, that was one of the names that the natives of Iran used. Iran has always been on the road from wherever conquerors came from to wherever they were ultimately going to head next. The natives of the region have always been headstrong, surpassing their occupiers ability to cope with their insistence on going their own way, seperate from the empire they were currently part of, unless that empire was lead by a Persian. That is, until they were almost destroyed by the Mongols. But even the Mongols themselves took up Persian ways after settling in Persia, holding power there until the time we term the modern age. Which is where we modern people meet up with world powers whose names we recognize.

Any attempt on my part to tell a history of Iran and the people of that region will be criticized as being an oversimplification. If the paragraph above doesn’t do justice to the millenia of conflict, discovery and advancement in your eyes, feel free to expand your own knowledge by reading further on the subject. There are links throughout this article for just that reason, feel free to click on them. However, the modern age is where the conflict between the US and Iran originates, so let’s just proceed into the modern era, because this is a single blog article and not a multi-volume history of the region and its peoples.

IranGeoHistory of Iran in 5 minutes (3200 BCE – 2013 CE) – Mar 19, 2013

Tehran is first used as the capital city of Iran/Persia during the Qajar dynasty in the Sublime State of Persia. It was the capital of the Pahlavi dynasty and the Imperial State of Persia. The Pahlavi who founded the dynasty was a member of the Russian military who deposed the Qajar Shah in 1925. The Shah that America and Great Britain put into power, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was a continuation of the Pahlavi dynasty in their eyes. Someone who would continue to allow the removal of Iran’s natural resources by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company if also, conveniently, being the Shah of Iran.

The Resource Curse

To put the Shah into a position where he could do the US and Britain this favor they wanted from him, MI-6 and the CIA toppled the government of Mohammad Mosaddegh. Mosaddegh had nationalized the oil industry in Iran in an effort to bring control of the country’s national resources back into the hands of the natives of the region. A situation enjoyed by all of the first world countries, but denied to third world countries. He had won leadership of the country of Iran in popular election in 1951. He had been appointed prime minister by the Shah himself. As the wiki article on him notes,

The new administration introduced a wide range of social reforms: unemployment compensation was introduced, factory owners were ordered to pay benefits to sick and injured workers, and peasants were freed from forced labor in their landlords’ estates. In 1952, Mossadegh passed the Land Reform Act which forced landlords to turn over 20% of their revenues to their tenants. These revenues could be placed in a fund to pay for development projects such as public baths, rural housing, and pest control.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

His actions as prime minister seem quite rational, in hindsight. If only he hadn’t pissed off the multinational corporations that really ran his country, he probably would have been celebrated by more than just the people of the region who want the benefits of liberal democracy enjoyed by first world countries. But that isn’t how it worked out. Britain and the US forced him out of office and restored the monarchy of the Shah. Restored the Pahlavi dynasty to Iran, setting up the next twenty-plus years of military rule, with all the terrorism, torture and suffering that the phrase military rule implies.

It was after the people of Iran were denied liberal democracy by a coup carried out by foreign powers that they turned to the Mullahs for leadership. Can you blame them for this, were you in their place? I can’t. But Republicans do blame them, largely because the current Republican party is dominated by fundamentalist/evangelical christians who see Islam as their competitor in the religion markets of the world. They see Iran as the target they want to take down, have seen Iran as their prime target since the Islamic Revolution occurred and Iran once again nationalized their oil production (the real reason that US corporate leaders are pissed) as well as invaded the US embassy and took Americans hostage.

Episode 1/9 for the BBC Radioplay “Fall of the Shah”

“I fear chaos Mr. Yazdi, and if I may say it seems chaos has come again.”

Andrew Sullivan, Iranian Ambassador

We got our people back, but Britain didn’t get back its oil production machinery, so we remain pissed and Britain remains pissed. In the intervening 40 years between the revolution (1979) and now (2019) there has been a lot of water under that bridge of hatred between the US and Iran. There was the Iran/Iraq war that we funded through Saddam Hussein. The one where he gassed parts of Iran as well as his own people who were in rebellion. We paid for a lot of that. There was the shoot down of Iran Air Flight 655, much like the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that Vladimir Putin deems fake news. We did that and then made up stories for how we didn’t do that, just like Putin is doing now. But we killed nearly 300 Iranian citizens on a routine flight.

Then there was the the US invasion of Iraq. An invasion founded on a lie. That invasion opened pandora’s box in the entire Middle Eastern region, creating the opportunity for political change that the populations of a good portion of the region eventually took advantage of. Iran’s Mullahs took advantage of their neighbor’s instability and have created what Washington sees as an Iranian puppet state where there once was a government installed by the second Bush administration. Iran has taken advantage of the chaos that Bush II created, advancing its influence across the region. Influence which its main competitor, Saudi Arabia, sees as a direct threat. Not surprisingly Saudi Arabia seeing Iran as a threat means that their paid stooge, Donald Trump, sees Iran as a threat.

So here we are in 2019. The tit for tat behavior has been going on for decades. The US and Britain want their assets back, the Iranians want to be in control of their own country, and the idiot that the idiot Stormtrumpers put into the office of the presidency is doing his dead-level best to get us into war with Iran. What would I do now, in his place? I’d recapitulate to the agreement that the Obama administration negotiated in good faith. I’d stop antagonizing Iran with sanctions. I’d apologize, officially, for the coup in 1951. I’d apologize for shooting down their civilian airliner in 1988. I’d apologize for helping Saddam Hussein kill hundreds of thousands of their people. I’d try that just for starters, see how far that gets us. Not that I think it’s likely that the Orange Hate-Monkey or his Secretary of War will do any of that. What I wouldn’t do is bomb Iran.

I will never apologize for the United States of America. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are.

George H.W. Bush

NPR’s Throughline re-released their first episode last week. It reminded me that they had done a primer on the real history of the US and Iran.

Throughline – Four Days In August – July 11, 2019

“The only difference between me and these people is my place of birth, and this is not a big difference.”

Howard Conklin Baskerville

By 1979 Mosaddegh is long dead, but his legacy is not. So while he himself was completely axed by the clerical powers of the time, his narrative, his legacy, became very useful to the regime.

Roya Hakanian

This week Throughline issued a follow-up episode on the subject, one that covers the history between the US and Iran after that initial triumph and betrayal all the way to the present day.

Throughline – Rules of Engagement – July 18, 2019

Iran deserves a real apology for its treatment at the hands of the US government, especially in the here and now of the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s racist/Christianist war on targets of convenience.

Misogyny by Any Other Name

Let’s imagine if 80,000 votes in the Rust Belt had gone the other way in 2016 and Hillary Clinton were president. Let’s also imagine there were controversial circumstances surrounding her victory – a foreign adversary attacked our political system in the hopes of putting her in power – and reasons to believe the Democratic campaign may have cooperated in some way with the attackers.

…Would there be widespread hand-wringing about those who dared to question Clinton’s earlier denials of wrongdoing? Would congressional Democrats call for Republicans’ resignations and demand new investigations into federal law enforcement?

Imagine if the Mueller report scrutinized Clinton instead of Trump

Hillary Clinton has been the prime target of hatred for women for most of my life. If you had a problem with women in general it was Hillary Clinton that was cited as evidence of this problem. From the moment she stepped upon the national stage and presented herself and her husband as two sides of the same coin, she has been the target of ire for females by both males and females alike. I should have remembered this fact before thinking that she could ever be president, but my desire to not see the United States descend into the hellhole it is now on the path to becoming blinded me to that painful truth. The painful truth that is still reiterated in every chant of #lockherup, in the constant conservative and #MAGA refrain of What about Hillary? in the face of any criticism of the Orange Hate Monkey.

I have a pretty clear memory of the first time she strutted onto my radar, back in the early days of Bill Clinton’s first term in office. It was during the rollout of what conservatives derogatively called Hillarycare. I bought the lie back then, not understanding just how skewed the information that I was consuming was. How conservative everywhere in Texas is, even in the bluest of blue parts of Texas. Women had a place and Hillary Clinton wasn’t conforming to what was expected of women, behaviorally, back in the eighties.

I don’t want to put her on a pedestal. There are things she did that were objectively wrong. That isn’t the point of this article. The point is that if you pretend that everything she did was done by a man, you wouldn’t even have batted an eye at her behavior. This is probably the most telling argument against her as a leader, that she was and is absolutely ordinary from a human perspective. She compromised her values to protect her husband, just like anyone else would do. She waited to discover what the polls would tell her before taking a stand on a subject, just like every other career politician does. There is not one thing that she is castigated for that men have not done and been forgiven for. It is because she is a woman that people hate her.

That is what misogyny means.

Bad news for the haters: History is decidedly unafraid of “the woman card.” It doesn’t care how many people will stand on tables today and swear they’d feel the same if she were a man. It will see us for what we are—a sick society, driven by misogyny and pathetically struggling to come to terms with the fact that women do not exist solely to nurture.

Huffingtonpost – Larry Womack – Stop Pretending

Hillary Clinton was nowhere near as unpopular as her haters think, as pundits are now saying retroactively.  Rather, what was underestimated was the misogynistic influence. What do I mean by that? I mean the people who blamed her for her husband’s presidency, or credited her with the same. She isn’t Bill Clinton and all the baggage that name and presidency entails.
Whether she had covered for him or castigated him would have made no difference, and the failure to separate her from her husband’s behavior is the clearest form of misogyny that I can point to. But it’s hardly the only example.

Hidden Brain – Too Sweet, Or Too Shrill? The Double Bind For Women – October 18, 2016

“When the person was presented as a high powered person, who was very ambitious, we found that the person was seen as much more unlikable when it was a woman than when it was a man,”

Madeline Heilman
Ashley Judd – TEDWomen 2016 – How online abuse of women has spiraled out of control

But let’s forget about the hatred leveled at powerful women. Women of status in the US today. Let’s go to the other end of the social spectrum. From the wealthy and powerful and the unjustified treatment they suffer, to the women with nothing. Let’s look at what happens to the victims of war. American women who were radicalized and joined the Islamic State in Syria.

American-Born ISIS Bride – MSNBC – Feb 22, 2019

Read through the comments under that video. The calls to refuse these women re-entry to the United States, even though they have no other nationality to claim. We cannot make them stateless by revoking their citizenship, and we cannot keep them from returning if they are citizens. If we violate international law in this case, we will have no grounds to hold other countries to international law later. To keep these people from being radicalized again, we HAVE TO make sure they are fully engaged in society for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know the particulars of each case. It’s entirely possible that they deserve prison time for their actions in Syria. That isn’t the question here. The particular woman who was interviewed for the television segment expects to get a prison sentence. However, The Orange Hate-Monkey has revoked her passport. He has rendered her stateless. He has violated international law, at the same time as he is harassing other countries to abide by international law.

The Daily – The American Women Who Joined ISIS – Feb. 22, 2019


Hold on, I hear you saying. We can’t just let these people come back here. That’s the catch. We already have. American men who have surrendered under similar circumstances have been repatriated. The women, though? We don’t want those women back. That’ll teach the rest of the women to stay in line. Never mind that we cannot legally denaturalize a citizen. Only the court can do that, and we have to bring them back here to put them on trial. It’s a catch-22. We can’t keep her out, and we can’t say she doesn’t belong here without first bringing her home. All of them have to come home, but the women most of all. Most of all, because singling them out for different treatment is a hallmark of misogyny.

Reshma Saujani – TED2016 – Teach girls bravery, not perfection

I want to live in a world where women are encouraged to fight back. In that world men will treat women better. But instead of teaching them to fight back we train girls to be passive. To smile meaninglessly. To never let a moment of anger show. Passivity gets you beaten to death while you sit and take it, and the women who do fight back are punished, punished more harshly than we punish men.



The Ezra Klien Show – This Conversation Will Change How You Understand MisogynyKate Manne


Think of the strongest, surest woman you know, and then think about what is said about her. Now think about that person as a man. See the problem now? I’m familiar with the argument. I’ve been around the park a few times now. A life without conflict is not really living, is expecting too much from others.  Standing on “no conflict” as an achievable goal ignores the natural world around us where conflict is everywhere.

Caroline Paul – TEDWomen 2016 – To raise brave girls, encourage adventure

The misunderstanding originated with the separation of physical violence from verbal violence. Passivity starts with being afraid to speak your mind, not with the refusal to come to blows. Passivity is present in hiding in the “safe room” rather than fleeing from the aggressor or fighting back if necessary. Of being prepared to gut that bastard the next time he comes near, rather than forgive him. You can forgive his corpse, sweetheart. Forgive it all you like. Make sure it is a corpse first.

What? Too harsh? You’ve never seen your mother beaten. Never been beaten yourself. You’ve never discovered that rage within yourself and wondered where it came from. Walk a mile in my shoes. In a partner I wanted someone that would have my back because she wanted to protect me as much as I wanted to protect her. I taught my daughter to defend herself, that it was okay to defend herself. If women are our equals, they don’t need our permission to be in our faces all the time. They simply will be, and we (the men) will just have to take it. Hopefully we’ll manage as well as the women have.

Sarah Kay – TED2011 – If I should have a daughter

I’ve been sitting on this one awhile. What we did to Hillary Clinton was misogyny. she’s not the only victim. Apologize to your daughters and your wives. Thank them for not gutting your heartless ass.

The Xenophobia of the Orange Hate-Monkey

The Orange Hate-Monkey says “open borders” as if there are terrorists just waiting across the river for us to let down our guard. Terrorists got into the country even in World War Two when the entire country was on a war footing and reporting suspicious activity all the time. There is no such thing as a secure border, because the border is in every international airport and in every seaport and every inch of coastline. When he says border he means the Mexico border. There is no confusion here. He means brown-skinned people coming over the Southern border. Brown-skinned people that he then hires to work at Mar-a-Lago. But that is part and parcel of his racism. Dark-skinned people are lesser people and should be afraid of white people. Should be grateful to be allowed to survive in his America.

I don’t have a problem with open borders. If you thought about it, you wouldn’t have a problem with it either. It’s called tourism, letting people come in because they want to visit a place. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

That is why we have to reject his America. Why we have to bring this machine to a grinding halt until he is removed from office. I make no bones about it now. He has to be removed. His Vice President has to be removed. The entire election should be voided because of Russian tampering and party shenanigans on the part of the head of the FBI, James Comey, who thought he was crippling the next President, Hillary Clinton, not putting a known criminal in the White House.

These GOP and Democratic party shenanigans have gone on long enough now. Time for them to stop. So first we take over the Democrats, and then we make the system sound again by passing state legislation that ends gerrymandering, institutes jungle primaries and mandates public financing for all elections. With those measures in place every dollar that gets into a representatives hands from outside the government will be criminal and prosecutable. Their parties will be largely irrelevant aside from the issues the party represents. Whoever best represents an area will be the representative because there won’t be a corrupting influence involved in drawing the districts. It’s a long haul, but we can do it. First we have to keep the OHM from making himself dictator of the United States, and that means keeping him from securing power in his hands. Stop the takeover of the SCOTUS. Say no to any appointments he makes until after the next congress is seated.

Facebook comments posted to the blog.

Is the Sharing Economy Sharing More Than We Bargained For?

The New York Hoteliers released an attack ad against AirBnB.

Share BetterAirbnb: Who’s In Your Building? – Jul 31, 2017

“Airbnb allows illegal listings on its site, and refuses to hand over the addresses to law enforcement,” the ad reads. “Are you at risk?”

The answer to this question, HANYC suggests, is yes.

Mic.com

This was AirBnB’s response,

Your ad is misleading, plays to xenophobic fears, and is beneath the dignity of the hospitality industry. It is an affront to the victims of terrorism, and its shock and abhorrent xenophobia is only equaled by the irony of it being paid for by hotels, where, as the New York Post recently noted while covering your ad, “lots of terrorists have stayed.” Given that you are supporting an ad about terrorism in lodging, do your hotels have a perfect record on this?

Mic.com

Generally, I couldn’t give two shits what corporate conglomerates and their advocacy organizations have to say about pretty much anything. But reporting on this ad campaign and the full-throated rejection that AirBnB levels at the ad misses a few points which are worth enumerating so that everyone understands what is actually going on here.

Any rental property stands the chance of being rented for nefarious reasons. It is the nature of property ownership and leasing that this can happen to anyone who owns and rents property. Pointing at any one facet of an industry like hospitality and claiming “you promote terrorism” is wrong on its face. All use of property by anyone other than the owner incurs this risk to the property owner, which most of them are quite aware of if they are in the the hospitality business.

Therein lies the heart of the problem. Airbnb, like Uber does for car ownership, profits from the risk of property owners without being exposed to any risk themselves. AirBnB (or any other property renting app) breaks rules imposed on hospitality organizations for valid reasons of safety, security and sanitation, and they get away with these violations by claiming that they aren’t renting property, the owner of the property is. This legal sleight of hand may keep them from losing court battles, but it doesn’t excuse them from the fact that they are taking advantage of a need to pay bills by people who own property but can’t afford to keep it without leasing rooms via a handshake agreement.

If anything happens on the owners property while someone else is renting it, that owner pays for the damages to the renter as well as for the damages to the property. Slip and fall. Cuts and lacerations from broken glass. Illness from improperly maintained bathrooms and bedrooms. Heaven forbid there is a pool on the premises and alcohol to go with it. Most people don’t think about these potential liabilities. They just want to keep their property and they have to occasionally rent it out in order to do that. They are, most of them, one accident away from financial ruin and they don’t even realize it.

I’m not crying for hotel chain owners or tenement landlords who blatantly profit off the backs of the unsuspecting and the poor any more than I’m going to shed tears for taxi services that get rules put in place to limit their competition so that they can charge more for their service. What I am saying though is that the “sharing economy” doesn’t seem to be doing much in the way of sharing the profits from these new-found ways of getting around onerous rules, and they aren’t sharing much of the risk, either. Seems like the property owners should probably ask for more than just the rental cost from AirBnB. They should have some kind of financial assurance that they won’t be driven out of their homes if the unthinkable happens.

This was reblogged on my now-deleted TUMBLR account and shared to Facebook. the-future-now: “ Airbnb responds to “fear-mongering” ad suggesting short-term rentals aid terrorism that account still exists but has no content on it any longer. Tumblr has definitely fallen on hard times. The article on Mic.com was the basis for the post.

Knowledge vs. Belief

I started to write this post after Jim posted Unknown unknowns over at Stonekettle Station, which was a post in response to the tempest in a teapot that represented the 24 hour news cycle reporting on the clinic standoff and shooting incident in Colorado Springs. I shelved it for various reasons at first, none of them really earth-shattering. Of course, a week later and we have the inexplicable mass shooting in San Bernardino, which instantly eclipsed the previous story.

I could easily spin this into an screed against the gun lobby and their paid cronies in Washington DC who won’t let the CDC even study gun violence in an effort to figure out how to address it, considering that we have had more than one mass shooting every day of this year (2015) which has to be some kind of record that no society on the face of this earth is really interested in breaking…

…but that isn’t the article I want to write. This isn’t going to be the article I started out writing, either. The issue is much bigger than the specific subject of what we know or don’t know about a specific person set on doing wrong, or having been caught doing wrong. It is even bigger than the problem that Jim was trying to address, the 24 hour news cycle, which I agree probably represents the greatest threat to human civilization in the modern age. The need to fill time, to produce facts and counterfactuals when no hard facts are known about the specifics of the incident in question, can lead to greater and greater flights of fancy.

I turn the TV off when that feeding frenzy starts. It is hard enough to separate the wheat from the chaff on good days.  On bad days like the two events above bring, listening to the news just feeds confirmation bias until you end up looking and sounding like an idiot.

I will include the specific arguments for the Colorado Springs incident in this post, but the point that I’m seeing come into focus now that the shooter has appeared in court and indicted himself is the argument about what we know vs. what we believe. How we can know what we think we know, and how is that different than belief?

That is the reason why the 24 hour news cycle is such a threat. Being not much more than the talking heads that sold soap in the early days of television, the current crop of news faces appear to have even less familiarity with what facts are and why fact-checking is important. They are, after all, just selling soap.  Keeping the most number of eyes on the screen is how they sell soap and so the factual content of what they say isn’t the important part of the equation.  That they tell you things that reinforce your beliefs on a subject so that you will keep watching, is.

Most of the white-looking people in the US trust the police intrinsically, for example.  Most of us older types were raised on police dramas portraying the cops as the good guys who enforce the laws and keep the peace.  It is very uncomfortable for most of us to be confronted with stories if entire police departments covering up the details of killings done at their hands. And yet, time after time over the last few years, we have been shown just how human police departments are everywhere in the US.  Be it Chicago, Baltimore or Saint Louis, just about anywhere USA, there are examples of police who brazenly violate laws and procedures who are then protected by their brothers in uniform.

This really isn’t news.  If you’ve been paying attention you would have run across stories by people like Radley Balko who have been documenting police excess for several decades now.  The police are humans, they make mistakes just like the rest of us.  If you were in their place you would act no differently than they would, because that is what humans do.  But that doesn’t excuse the excess, it is a point of data that needs to be accounted for when deciding what you know or don’t know about any given subject.

For the black or brown people who are almost always the bad guys in police dramas, the revelation that cops are only human really isn’t news either. They’ve lived with the reality of constant police scrutiny for generations. So much so that stories abound of fathers and mothers cautioning their children not to become police statistics.  So it is no wonder that the chant black lives matter resounds with them. The counter offered by clueless whites that all lives matter is heard by these same people as just another call for them to sit down and be quiet. How is this possible?  How can realities and beliefs about these realities be so widely separated?

When it comes right down to it, what you know with certainty is a very small number of things. Whether it is night or day. Whether it is cold or hot. You know these things because you can test them directly with your senses. Solipsists will argue that you can’t even know those things because we are all just brains in jars at best, but I’d like us all to pretend that the shadows on the cave walls actually represent something real, and try to make sense of that.  If that much can’t be granted, then there is little point in continuing to read this.  Even less in my continuing to write.

Beyond what you can test yourself (fire burns) there are grades of factual knowledge which you can probably safely rely on.  At each point where the facts exchange hands, the ownership of that data has to be documented to be trusted. This is why, when doing research, it is important to seek out source material and not just rely on wikipedia.  The more obscure the subject matter the less reliable secondary sources are.

When watching the news on television or reading news stories on any other site than AP, Reuters or UPI you are already dealing with information that has been through at least three hands if not dozens. When you’ve gone beyond the point where the witness is being interviewed in person, you are dealing with evidence that wouldn’t be accepted in court. That doesn’t mean it is without value, it just means the news you are being offered could be just this side of fantasy.

It might even be pure fantasy. Case in point, the FOX/conservative/anti-abortion counter-narrative about the Colorado Springs shooter.  When I logged on Blogger that night, the first thing I saw wasn’t the Stonekettle Station article. The first article that caught my eye was a piece over at Friendly Atheist in which Ted Cruz voices the notion that the shooter was some kind of leftist.  No, I could not make something that stupid up myself.

Cruz is basing that characterization on a supposed voter registration form in which Dear was listed as a woman. Whether it’s a mistake, or Dear was just messing around, or simply not the right form, we don’t know, but no other evidence indicates that he was transgender.

There’s even less evidence that he was a “leftist.”

The problem that I had with Jim’s Unknown unknowns piece now surfaces. Jim mentions this story in opposition to the reports (which he attributes to Planned Parenthood) that the shooter was heard to say “no more baby parts” as he was being arrested.  But the contrast between the veracity of these two stories is as marked as they are in opposition to each other.

The statement no more baby parts was repeated by an officer to a reporter directly on the scene, a reporter who dutifully passed the comment on to their viewing audience. While that is hearsay and not evidence admissible in court; the officer, if he were to appear in court, could repeat the statement and it would be admissible.  It would also be accepted by an overwhelming number of juries who trust police officers to be truthful (see above) even in the face of so much evidence that police will lie to protect their own.

Since this case isn’t about one of their own, and since the police showed remarkable restraint in bringing a cop killer in alive, I was inclined to believe the statement of the arresting officer.  That the shooter (not alleged, he plead guilty) repeated a version of the same statement at his hearing just confirms the motivation that lead him to commit the crimes he is guilty of.

On the other hand, the preferred story of conservatives/anti-abortionists is based on what? Essentially no evidence whatsoever, more wishful thinking than anything else.  And yet it is repeated by a Republican Presidential candidate as if it was the unquestionable truth.

That is the nature of belief. It doesn’t require facts.  Facts are counterproductive because they can be questioned. If facts are presented that counter a belief, it only takes the briefest scrutiny to discover or manufacture an anomaly which the believer will use to discard the entirety of the factual information presented. Ted Cruz wants to believe that the shooter couldn’t be one of his fellow anti-abortionists. Ted Cruz believes that leftists are dangerous people, and that LGBT people are a threat to his way of life.  The story he repeats is ready-made to fit into his preconceived view of the world, and it matters not one bit that the story makes no sense on its face.  That the average liberal and LGBT person would be in support of Planned Parenthood and consequently wouldn’t see a need to attack one of their clinics never enters into the mind of a conservative repeating this laughable story.

Given the history of attacks on Planned Parenthood, and the current cloud of controversy artificially created by anti-abortion activists faking videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling body parts, the story of a shooter in a clinic almost serves itself up ready-made as a vehicle to attack the religious right and conservatives in general. Of course they would want to craft a counter-narrative (however flimsy) to give themselves an out, a way to disavow accountability for their actions over the last twenty years and more.

A conservative could easily counter all of the above (most probably will) with the adult equivalent of I know you are but what am I?  Since about the time that Reagan was elected, conservatives started to complain about the liberal media. Even I, for a time, fell for this notion that the media was somehow biased in general against conservatives. As the years have progressed, and conservatives have created their own outlets like FOX news, conservapedia, and uncounted news sites including the whacko fringe like prisonplanet and infowars, it has become clear that conservatives aren’t satisfied with simply presenting news from their point of view.  No, what they want is their own set of facts which are unassailable.  Unassailable because they aren’t based on anything real.

Another example is the softer, nicer language of pro-life and pro-choice adopted by the two sides of the endless argument over abortion. Having softened the language, pollsters can get majorities of citizens in the US to say they are pro-life. Who would be against life?  I’m pro-life, I’m also pro-choice; militantly pro-choice.  The fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans still believe that abortion should be legal gets lost in the conservative rush to declare the opposite, that the majority of Americans oppose abortion. This conservative view on the matter simply isn’t true as polling shows.

What has occurred since the creation of FOX news is the division of the US into two camps; one of those camps thinks they are right, and the rest of us are liberal.  In their attempt to prove that the rest of the media is based on a liberal conspiracy, conservatives have consciously created a conspiracy of their own. A conspiracy where they tell lies which they know are lies, because the ends justify the means.

When you evade the truth, when you spin tales to hide your true goals, what you get are people who believe your lies so firmly that they will act on them as if they were truths.  You get what transpired in Colorado Springs yesterday, to the embarrassment of every single person who identifies as pro-life. Remember that the next time you hear the phrase liberal media.

Paris in Perspective

As the Charlie Hebdo artist said after the recent attacks in Paris, #ParisIsAboutLife. I tried to broach a tangent to this subject when I wrote the recent piece, Greece in Perspective. I sometimes wonder if I’m not too subtle in my writing.  Other times I know I am, because the message never seems to get across.

Joann Sfar on Instagram
h/t to Independant

Jim Wright wrote a particularly moving piece today that reminded me of the more subtle point I was trying to make with that other blog entry.  Titled The Price of Civilization he goes into precisely why I ended the Greek piece with a reference to war and the Marshall Plan.

I’ve always been struck by the apparent contradiction that the most humane policy ever adopted by the United States was crafted by a General who oversaw so much bloodshed.  But that was the wisdom of Truman and Marshall, overlooked by many these days.

Which is too bad.  Because Jim got it right when he said;

Terrorism, the kind we face today? It comes from the fact that we, us, we keep blowing up civilization and leaving nothing but death and ruin in our wake. Terrorists are like cockroaches, they thrive on chaos and destruction and we’re damned good at creating that chaos. 

Those of us on the liberal side of the aisle like to point at Bush II for creating the problem of Daesh by removing Saddam Hussein from power (as his father predicted would happen during the first Gulf War) but truthfully it is the American people who are to blame. Our own imperial nature which we coyly disguise and defend as capitalism.

We’re the ones who insisted that we wanted out of Iraq as soon as we could get out, instead of actually spending the additional decades it was going to take to make the region into a self-sustaining conglomeration of disparate elements.  The kind of time that was spent helping to rebuild Europe after the war. A Europe that was already embracing self-determination and democracy.

Maybe we’re just blind to it, we inhabitants of the most egalitarian association of completely disparate influences, commonly referred to as the US.  Because, no matter what detractors might say, no where on Earth do you have the mixture of varying cultures like those present in the current US social structure (maybe Oz. Maybe) all of them more or less harmoniously governed as a single nation.  We take the bloodless transfers of power that occur here like clockwork as something everyone experiences, when the truth is that nowhere is there anything like the US when it comes to government, good and bad.

Listening to the Polish election celebrations, where a new isolationist government has been elected, it becomes apparent just how insulated most other places in the world are when it comes to exposure to other cultures.

Even in the conservative bastion of Texas all I have to do is travel to a different part of Austin to experience a whiff of almost any culture you can name. Asian cultures. African cultures. Native American cultures. These flavors are spread all over the nation in pockets. When I lived in Garden City several hundred Vietnamese refugees were dropped just outside of town in a little makeshift neighborhood constructed hastily to accommodate them. There was a lot of grumbling about this, but little violence. Why would there be? It’s a free country, isn’t it? Most of them moved away before too long, apparently to places like Austin where I live now, but we folded them into our society with hardly a hiccup, compared to the experiences of previous generations.  That is what America really is good at.

It is a shame that more people don’t understand this. Even the average American doesn’t get it.  As violent as we are, the thought of seizing control of the levers of government with force occurs to almost none of the citizenry.  This is because there is no need to use violence.  Those interested in getting involved in government do so; the doors are open, come on in and roll up your sleeves. If you are among the conspiracy-minded who doubt this is true, find your local precinct meeting place and show up for a meeting.  You might be surprised.

Yet the government we set up in Iraq was seized by the majority religious faction in the first election held there, and they proceeded to exert their authority over the other minorities in ways that lead directly to the creation of Daesh-held areas of the country in response. We allowed this to happen in a country we had effective control over. What did we do? We left, not that we really had much choice.  But we failed to impart the most important bit of knowledge that all of us should have gathered from our experiences in this free country before we left there. That is to our shame and the world’s detriment.

Freedom doesn’t mean you get to have your way. Freedom means you get to present your arguments. You get to present your arguments without fear of being killed for expressing them. If you are very persuasive, you might actually get to see your arguments accepted by others.

Pointing a weapon at someone will get you compliance, but it will ultimately lead to betrayal and violence, because coercion has a way of backfiring. That is why our military adventurism fails us as a nation. The civilizations we invade at the point of a gun just see the gun. They certainly don’t see the America that the average American actually experiences. The America where guns are frequently a topic of discussion, but almost never used anymore. We all know that when someone points a gun at you, you do what they say. But we also know that the tables will turn, that the aggressor will one day be the victim. Because that is the way of all things human.

So it will be with the violence in Paris that we all witnessed yesterday. The perpetrators of violence will either die violently or be subjected to French justice, a good bit more genteel than American justice. But Paris will go on just as before. Cities are for the living.

In the end, that may be the best response to terrorists everywhere.  The best response to those people who encourage us to do violence out of fear. Create a civilization, a society, that can withstand their attempts to destroy it with fear.  To slowly smother those who believe that there are things worth dying for with the millions more of us who know that there are many things worth living for. To go on living as if these fear-mongers never existed in the first place.

To pay the costs of establishing a civilization that can withstand the trials of living.  Like Marshall did after seeing so many good men die. You either go on living or get busy with dying.  There aren’t any other choices.

When a Structural Intersection Isn’t One

American Atheists filed a federal suit in 2012 claiming the 17-foot display at the museum built with a mix of public and private funds was unconstitutional. The group said its members suffered from both physical and emotional damages from the presence of the beamed cross, resulting in headaches, indigestion and mental pain.

Huffpo, Ground Zero Cross

The problem here is, this is just another form of pareidolia. Every building which is multi story has a beam intersection of this kind in it somewhere. Most of the bigger ones have thousands of them. So the significance of this one intersection is miniscule compared to the numbers of intersections destroyed in the collapse. Additionally, it was a virtual certainty that an intersection would come to rest in this fashion, exactly as documented. If I were to go digging through records of demolitions I could probably produce at least one example of this from every single one. It is meaningless, a trick of the eye and the believing brain.

What this piece of wreckage represents is nothing more than the human tendency to assign meaning where there is none. It is not a cross except in the minds of people who want to see a cross; consequently, the reason they want this particular intersection saved is entirely religious and in no way secular. Just FYI, a trained eye can easily reveal that the two intersections are not the same, so the symbolism of the cross standing amidst the debris? Lost on the people who salvaged any old structural intersection to satisfy the calls to preserve the one everyone claims to have remembered.

What if structures were formed in crescents or Stars of David? Which group would find those shapes significant, and would we be receptive to their calls to preserve their symbols?  Remember FOX’s depth of acceptance of the structure they deemed the Ground Zero Mosque? Read the hysteria surrounding the design for the flight 93 memorial, and then tell me how these arguments are not religiously motivated.

In response, Paul Murdoch released a statement saying that there was no open or hidden Islamic symbolism in his design; rather, the proposal was based on the bowl-shaped terrain of the site. Other supporters noted that the crescent image was also the shape of an embrace. Nevertheless, Murdoch acquiesced and amended his designs in an effort to avoid a larger political controversy. The architect therefore revised his design into a circular shape bisected by Flight 93’s path toward its eventual crash site. Additionally, site planners installed a visitor’s center and a marble “Wall of Names.”

Seventeen years and $60 million later, the final phase of the Flight 93 National Memorial has ended with the completion of Murdoch’s “Tower of Voices.” Here, the architect presents a variety of numerical homages to the tragedy of September 11. For example, the tower is 93-feet-tall and contains forty wind chimes, one each for the Shanksville crash victims.

Hyperallergic, 17 Years Later

This is the most telling fact. No church has spoken up and offered to host the christian monument on their own property nearby. There are plenty of churches within visiting distance of the WTC site for this to be a simple solution to the problem. Since they’ve already substituted a different intersection for the one seen in the wreckage that christians have assigned so much meaning to, they could just as easily have cut I-beam crosses for every single church in New York from the wreckage of the WTC. Every church in the state could have featured one, if churchgoers actually thought that there was this much meaning in a structural intersection. Since this hasn’t happened we can safely assume that the significance is minor.

I sat on this article for years waiting for a final ruling. There never was a final ruling. The cross is still on display, as far as I know. The fact that its meaning comes from religious belief and religious iconography will result in its eventual removal from the memorial site. This is because at some point the site will be wholly publicly funded and public funds cannot be used for religious purposes. The United States government is forbidden from endorsing any religion.

Propaganda, Spin & Shooting Down Civilian Aircraft

I posted a link to a segment from the Rachel Maddow show on Facebook a few days back.

RACHEL MADDOW – Plane crash followed NATO alert on rebel capability – July 18, 2014

Rachel Maddow whittles away the unsubstantiated reports in the Malaysia Airlines plane crash investigation and points out that NATO warned the world on June 30th that Russia was training Ukrainian separatists on vehicle-borne anti-aircraft capability.

I’ve spent a good portion of today writing responses to accusations that the segment is biased and not based on facts.

I get it, it’s popular these days to insist that television news is biased.  If it isn’t FOX news’ conservatives incessantly whining about liberal bias (liberal meaning “anything not Conservative” i.e. mindlessly jingoist with a heavy helping of Jesus on top) it’s the blatant bias of FOX news itself making up stories that they think their viewers will ascribe to (#Benghazi, anyone?) as detailed on any number of channels including MSNBC which the clip above comes from.

The “why” of the location of the plane, it’s status right before it fell out of the sky, will only be answered by the fight recorders if they are ever found. Flight recorders that the separatists claim to have already found.

 Conspiracies are already spinning on the subject.  Ukraine shot the plane down. Ukraine thought they were targeting Vladimir Putin’s plane (the story from Russian news sources that Rachel Maddow relates) the plane was loaded with corpses and crashed on purpose to frame the Russians.  I’m sure there will be more.

Ukraine hasn’t been shooting down planes in the area; Ukraine would have known (since they control their own airspace) that the plane was a commercial airliner. The separatists have been, and shot down a plane at the same altitude and similar heading earlier in the week (not to be confused with a shootdown from more than a decade ago)  So they clearly had the capability to do it again, and the motivation to continue hampering Ukrainian efforts to put down the separatists.

The separatists exist largely because Russia funds them. There is a conspiracy theory (which theorists like Dan Carlin deny is one) that suggests that the unrest in the Ukraine is due to US intervention in the region, that we’re trying to pull the former soviet state into the NATO alliance. That that is why Russia acted to claim the Crimea through the use of the separatists.

The truth is that Kiev wants to get closer to the EU, to be considered part of the EU rather than a satellite of Russia. If I understand the political structure of the country, the governors of the various regions are appointed not elected. That has lead to unrest in the outlier areas away from Kiev and its direct control, parts of the country that want to elect their own leaders directly. There is also a history of distrust between the Eastern and Western sections of what we call ‘Ukraine’ today (bad blood from WWII during the occupation by Germany) That is why the separatists accuse the government of Kiev of being under the influence of fascists.

Russia would of course like its territory back. Kiev has been historically in and out of Russian control for centuries, and was actually the first city to be called Russia (Kievan Rus) and would probably be the capital of the country of Russia if the Mongols hadn’t taken it and occupied it. But none of this means that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin should be handed the keys to Kiev just because he wants it under his control.

Putin and Russia are as accountable for MH17 deaths as the US is for funding and equipping terrorists in other regions; as in, completely accountable if you are living anywhere outside of Russia or the US. As the saying goes “live by the sword, die by the sword.” The trick is to not be the one living by the sword. Vladimir Putin is the last of the KGB. When he dies, that era dies with him. If we can just stop funding the MIC in the US, the other half of the equation will also close.

It really isn’t propaganda or fallacy to say Russia is to blame for downing the plane. The separatists exist as a military force because Russia has encouraged them. Whether the equipment came from Russia recently, or was soviet equipment left in Ukraine at the end of the USSR, it exists because of Russian expansionism and empire that goes back centuries in time.

Putting the shoe on the other foot (to turn another phrase) I saw the same kinds of denial surrounding the downing of Iran Air Flight 655, the Iranian commercial airliner destroyed during the Iran/Iraq war, a conflict we heavily funded and supported. Everything from the excuse that Reagan gave and the US government still sticks to (an accident) all the way to full blown conspiratory “plane full of corpses flown at the Vincennes on purpose” insanity.

But we shot that plane down in cold blood and killed all those people because we were there and ready to kill. The same is true for the groups fighting in Ukraine right now, and the group in question gets its backing from Russia and is equipped with weapons made in Russia. They are the ones ready to kill. They get the blame. As much of the blame as the US got for that downing of an Iranian airliner.

Does that mean war?  No. Not even vaguely (I’m sure John McCain is already strapping on his sword, if he ever takes it off anymore) that does mean that Russia and their proxy separatists should answer in international court and pay restitution at the very least. If someone can be found that actually gave the order to shoot that plane down, that person should be put on trial.  But I think we’ve had enough killing in the world of late.  How about we not call for more, just right now?